When this squalid period in American history is over, those who enabled a mendacious, bigoted, traitorous President will have a lot to account for. But many of those who enable him do it because they are in striking distance of an accomplishment that will long outlive Trump’s time in office: a Supreme Court that will remove remaining fetters on corporate power, neuter the great civil rights laws of the last six decades, gut the power of governments to protect workers and consumers, give a blank check to untrammeled Presidential power, and deal a death blow to women’s constitutional right to abortion. In the daily drama that is the Trump Administration, where you blink and one outrage gives way to another, it’s worth keeping a sharp focus on Trump’s impact on an institution that will outlast him and impact American life in powerful ways.
There is nothing the right cares about more than the composition of the Supreme Court and cementing an enduring conservative majority is alarmingly close to reality with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. With so much at stake, and our conservative adversaries pulling out all the stops for the grand prize they have sought for 50 years — the Judicial Crisis Network promised to spend $10 million to confirm him, Heritage Action $11.5 million and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity at least $10 million — what are progressives doing in response?
Key progressive groups immediately engaged in this fight, including longtime movement leaders such as the Leadership Conference, NARAL, the NAACP, the Alliance for Justice, MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood and People for the American Way, as well as newcomers like Indivisible and Demand Justice. But many more organizations need to join them, and their funders need to make sure progressives have the resources to mount an opposition commensurate with the threat. Otherwise, we are engaging in asymmetrical warfare.
This is a time for every donor to dig much deeper, and every organization, whatever its past involvement in nomination battles, to join this time with its voice, financial and people power. If we can’t muster the strength we need now, the next time will be too late.
Kavanaugh’s long judicial and government records leave no margin for doubt that he will be one of the most right-wing Justices in history. He may serve meals to the homeless and coach girls basketball, but no one should be fooled by a public relations blitz. This is not a vote for Dad of the Month. It’s a confirmation that will set the course of the court — and with it, much of the country — for the next 30 years or more. And remember that Kavanaugh would succeed a crucial swing vote on the court. The stakes are much higher than Neil Gorsuch replacing a reliable right-wing justice like Antonin Scalia.
Some progressives worry that Kavanaugh’s nomination can’t be stopped. That kind of defeatist attitude is the best hope of those trying to install him for life, who know that if we fight hard enough, we can win. The party divide in the Senate is razor-thin but a majority of Senators support Roe v. Wade. The kind of grassroots pressure that saved the Affordable Care Act can be mobilized again for this titanic battle. We don’t need funds to create grassroots energy, but rather to meet and channel it. NARAL had a “call party” in one community expecting 35 people, and 150 showed up ready to fight. We can’t let them down.
Some say progressives simply don’t care as much as our right-wing adversaries about the future of the court and can’t see past our issue silos. Let’s hope that’s not the case. A court that is lost to us for a generation will not only dismantle a century’s worth of economic, social and rights protections but enshrine a deference to executive power that removes any judicial check on a President who has plainly and repeatedly revealed himself as an authoritarian with scant respect for or understanding of the U.S. Constitution. This is no time to sit on the sidelines.
This is a time for every activist and every donor to step up. For those who are focused on issues, whatever they care about, a Trump-tilted court will take a hammer to hard-won gains. For those who are focused on politics, the court fight is not a distraction from the critical midterms ahead, but a crucial element in winning them and in making the case for progressive governance. If progressive leaders won’t fight for the court with all that is on the line, a demoralized base will find reasons to stay home in November during the most critical election of our time, and there will be no check on a President whose utter contempt for democratic norms and the rule of law is without precedent in American history. Now is the time.